When the news broke that Hendrick Motorsports would immediately free Kasey Kahne from his contract — making him a free agent — everyone said the right thing, most likely out of respect for a veteran racer who has had a terrific career.
Kahne thanked Hendrick, and Hendrick called him a special talent (statements below). His teammates, in a serious of tweets, all rallied around him.
Then, Chad Knaus — the crew chief for the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson — got involved.
Here’s what he had to say, with remarks on TV:
He’s pleasant, he’s a great race car driver, he brings a lot to the table from a lot of different aspects. Unfortunately this is a performance based industry and .. we just haven’t had the performance out of that team as we would have expected and it stinks because they just won the Brickyard 400, I mean, he just won that race. And, it’s too bad, I do honestly think the 5 car will continue to go out there and compete potentially win more races. Getting into the chase I think they have the opportunity to perform very, very well, and it’s going to be sad to see him go, I know he’s going to do a good job and I know he’s going to land somewhere great.
Contrast that to what Jimmy Johnson tweeted:
Granted, there’s nothing inaccurate about what Knaus — Johnson’s crew chief — said. You just have to wonder why he decided to call out the performance of Kahne and his team when no one else did.
Hendrick, in an effort to get younger, is replacing the 45-year-old Kahne with 19-year old William Byron.
Kahne’s teammates rallied around him in a series of tweets that shows how close the Hendricks squad it.
Kahne noticed, and lauded his teammates.
On Monday, Hendrick Motorsports announced in a press release that it would release Kahne, the 2004 Rookie of the Year and this year’s Brickyard winner, from his contract.
It appears that Hendricks is wasting no time finding his replacement, with a report that William Byron will replace him in the No. 5.
Byron is all of 19-years-old, and his rise through the NASCAR ranks has been stunning, He’s now a rookie in the Xfinity Series, where he’s won three races. Before Xfinity, he drove for a season in the Truck Series.
Clearly, money has to be on the Hendrick’s team mind. They won’t have to pay nearly as much for Bryon as they would for a more experienced driver, like Kahne.
Kahne has driven the team’s No. 5 Chevrolet for the least six seasons. In his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, he’s won 18 times with 174 top 10 finishes.
The press release did not address what led to the split.
Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said, in the release:
Kasey has worked extremely hard. He’s a tremendous teammate and person, and he has been totally dedicated to our program since day one. I’ve always believed that he’s a special talent, and I know he will thrive in the right situation. We will do everything we can to finish the season as strong as we can.
Kahne was classy in his remarks:
I’d like to thank Rick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for their hard work and dedication, along with providing me a great opportunity and success over the last six years. We won six races together and I’m coming off of one of the biggest wins of my career at the Brickyard, which has given the (No.) 5 team a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. We still have a lot of racing left in 2017 and finishing strong is our top priority. I look forward to what the next chapter in my career holds.
Kahne is the latest big name driver to sever ties with his team. Stewart Haas Racing has announced it won’t renew Kurt Busch’s deal, and might cut ties with Danica Patrick. Matt Kenseth, a former Cup Champion, won’t be retained by Joe Gibbs Racing.